Jeremy Corbyn – The DUP connection

The DUP could talk to Labour in a hung Parliament, but only if it was led by someone other than Jeremy Corbyn, Arlene Foster suggested at the weekend.

However, there are signs that some in the DUP take a more nuanced view. The Belfast Telegraph's political editor Suzanne Breen noted that East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson had spoken favourably of Corbyn in an interview with her in 2016.

Mr Wilson told the Belfast Telegraph: “There is a decency and an  honesty about Jeremy Corbyn that I admire. His views on Northern Ireland  and his past associations with Sinn Fein — at a time when the IRA’s  murderous campaign was in full swing — makes me very angry.

“But, on a personal level, I find Jeremy a lovely man. He would never walk past you in the corridor in the House of Commons without saying,  ‘Hello, how are you?’ He has time for people. He’s a true gentleman.”

Wilson went on to describe a meeting in Corbyn's own North Islington seat: 

Mr Wilson revealed that, several years ago, Mr Corbyn had invited him to  address his North Islington constituency association. “The meeting was  held in the back of a pub. There were very left-wing views expressed  with which I totally disagreed. I argued my corner but the atmosphere  was friendly. It certainly wasn’t a rough or hostile gathering,” he  said. The DUP MP believed Mr Corbyn was “disastrous” for the Labour  Party and was “unelectable”.

I had a vague recollection of a meeting answering this description. Checking my notes, I found I had blogged about it at the time. The meeting at the Red Rose Comedy Club in Holloway took place in June 2007, shortly after the formation of a DUP-Sinn Féin led Northern Ireland executive. Along with Wilson, other speakers included Martina Anderson for Sinn Féin, Paul Callaghan of the SDLP and Rodney McCune of the UUP.

Corbyn told the event: 

"I suspect that the debates we’re going to be having in the UK Parliament over the next few years are going to be partly about the level of funding that’s provided to the six counties through the annual settlement but also there’s going to be a great deal of attention paid to economic issues.

 "To me it was very interesting that over the past year or so, increasingly early day motions have started appearing on the order paper in Parliament that are signed by both the SDLP and the unionists concerning water issues and a number of other economic and social issues, and indeed I’ve been happy to join in and sign those."

From the perspective of 12 years later, this is perhaps evidence that Corbyn's pre-leadership engagement with Northern Ireland was not as one-sided as some of his critics have claimed. That in turn might suggest that if unionists really do see Boris Johnson's Brexit deal as a 'surrender act', they might have options in a hung parliament that are worth exploring.



, , ,




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *